Ever heard of Steam? It’s a digital distribution platform created by the ever-clever minds at Valve. When it launched, it was PC-exclusive. Now, it supports the Mac and Valve has even created tools for developers to port their games over.
The “Games” section of the Mac App Store feels like Steam, with some benefits that Eli mentioned in his first impressions post such as being able to move games around in their own self-contained .app bundles instead of being tied to the Steam folder. Of course it all comes down to developer support, but currently the cost to developers to publish their games on both Steam and the Mac App Store are equal, although Steam offers benefits like cross-platform support, microtransactions, achievements and leaderboards -- all features that Apple could conceivably add to the Mac App Store in the future.
While we watch Valve and Apple battle it out, here are three games we've been spending some time on from the Mac App Store:
BEJEWELED 3 -- Fun As Ever
There’s been a lot of creative takes on Bejeweled since its last numbered sequel, but for my money, Bejeweled 3 [$19.99] is the best match-3 experience yet. It’s gorgeous, simple, and stylized and boasts several game modes that push the tempo or turn the core play on its head. I’m not much of a purist, so I’ve been spending the glut of my time with the standard mode of play, which has a few twists, too. For example, whenever you line up like-colored gems in an “L”-shaped pattern, you earn a special lightning gem that, when matched with other like-colored gems, annihilates rows of gems.
It’s these kinds of additions that make Bejeweled 3 so special, though of course, there is a standard Classic mode. This is a tired phrase, but if you like Bejeweled, you probably shouldn’t pass this one up.
AND YET IT MOVES -- Tilt and Platform
This is a unique one, so I’ll start at the top. And Yet It Moves [$9.99] is a 2D side-scrolling platformer set in a world created from pieces of ravaged paper. In the game, you’ll play as a sketch that isn’t so dissimilar from that dude in the “Take on Me” video.
The goal in each level is to reach an end point, but developer Broken Rules is ridiculously clever about how you go about doing this. While you can run and jump over hurdles, you’ll also need to rotate the game world in 90-degree increments in order to navigate and traverse the ever-growing number of traps and barricades. Physics, as you can imagine, play a key role as your sketch builds momentum from these world-turning activities.
This is one of those indie titles that takes a great singular idea and mechanic and runs with it throughout the entire experience, all the while mixing up the action surrounding it in satisfying ways. If you're in the mood for a 2D platformer that does doesn't involve a fat plumber with a coin dependency problem, this is definitely up your alley.
PRECIPICE OF DARKNESS 1 AND 2 -- Insert Your Money *Here*
This two-part RPG series (Episode 1 [$3.99], Episode 2 [$3.99]) is an interesting animal. It manages to be crude and hilarious, as well as informed, self-aware, and unique. It also stars its own writers and artists, Penny Arcade’s “Gabe” and “Tycho” of Penny Arcade fame, of course.
I haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time in the Mac App Store ports because both games are long by downloadable games standards, but I believe I’ve put enough time into them to confirm, at least, that they’re stable like their PC counterparts. I have, however, been around the block--both these games took up a lot of my time back when they were released over Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360, so I can confidently say that they’re good games.
But what makes them so good, you ask? It’s a combination of things. These games have a real sense of character. Penny Arcade’s aware, disgusting humor lives and breathes in this game world, filing up every aspect of it from monsters to locales. The series also has a pretty hip Active Time Battle system similar to old-school JRPGs, with the exception that it forces you to manage time and skills as opposed to drill the “attack” button. I also need to mention that these games are well written, a feature most games don’t have, for sure.
The best part about these three games is that nothing in any of them really requires a keyboard and mouse -- making it somewhat conceivable that they might eventually get ported to the iOS platform. I'd say Bejeweled 3 is almost guaranteed, and Precipice of Darkness likely would require the screen real estate of the iPad. I've got my fingers crossed.